In gesprek met Patricia Geula

Winner of the International Interfilm Berlin Script Pitch 2023 with her project Zêzere, Patricia Geula is currently working on its development within the CineSud ShortsLab 2024 program and working towards the shooting of the film this month! 

"Film is for me a way to heal and hopefully help others heal by unburdening the big painful questions and giving a face outside of our own the wounds we hold, hence allowing ourselves the freedom and the kindness, even if just for a moment, to be an observer. This is what film needs narrative that show the complexities of characters and worlds that are on the fringe of everyday/mainstream narratives."

Can you tell us something about yourself?

"My name is Patricia Geula. I was born in 1995 in a small remote town in Kenya called Kitale. I grew up all over Kenya but I often have such fondness for the time I lived with my grandmother on her farm in Cherengani. I am now living in Portugal and still learning how to navigate between these two places that are meaningful to me."

"I love long walks and laying on grass and during the in between moments I am diligently pursuing my filmmaking projects as a writer/director. My learning experience has been very hands-on. I started by working in different production companies, learning through the different departments. I then spent the last 7 years working under the umbrella of AFROBUBBLEGUM, which is a collective of African artists whose ambition is to create fun, fierce and frivolous work."

"During this period, I was mentored by incredible award winning filmmakers such as Philippa Ndisi-Herrmann and Wanuri Kahiu. I shadowed Wanuri on the set of Rafiki which was the first Kenyan film to premiere at the Cannes Film Festival, 2018. I then had the wonderful opportunity of having my short film project selected for the Durban Talent 2021 program and in 2022 I won the Nairobi Film Festival Writer’s Prize for my upcoming feature film "The Water Calls to You". This project was also selected to participate in the Durban FilmMart 2022. I am currently working on Zêzere, a short film project that won the International Interfilm Berlin Script Pitch 2023 and is now a participant of the CineSud ShortsLab 2024 coaching program."

What aspect of your work as a filmmaker do you enjoy time and time again? And why?

"Each stage offers me something that is immeasurable. Writing has always been a form of salvation. A cathartic release of a question or an emotion that has confined me under its spell for a long period of time. It is also a childlike playful process of discovery, of new friendships and many little dances when I am able to understand where the character wants to go. I also love being on set! It's so joyous to see all these different people and personalities collaborating and bring a whole new world into reality. This might be absurd, but I don't mind the long hours– the demands of it. It's a complete immersion into a living breathing objective that shifts, transforms and grows. Like a dear friend puts it, creativity is divine madness."

Can you tell us something about what you are currently working on?

"I am working on ZÊZERE, a story about a 14 year old Portuguese - Kenyan girl called Beatriz who wants to show an older friend that she can swim across the river and challenges him to do the same, but ends up saving him and revealing her biggest secret.
In Zêzere, we turn an eye towards the intimacy of dealing with grief, the sense of aloneness brought about by loss and displacement. Zêzere asks, what does it mean to belong and what gravity does the past, present and future hold in this process? Can we find courage through our shared vulnerability? And for this project, we have launched a crowdfunding, growing the village of support that will get us into production."

What has been your motivation to work on that story now? 

"When I first moved to Portugal, it was along the banks of this breathtaking river called Zêzere, where I would sit in many moments of reflection wondering what home meant to me. I was dealing with my internal sense of displacement and grief, but the rurality and calmness of the place eased the transition. Watching the river go on, wonderfully and gloriously so, made me aware of how much I was shrinking within my own trepidation. I also needed to write because I did not want to feel like I had abandoned myself by making the decision to move to Portugal. So I was able to put my projections, fears and longings into the film."

Why is this story important and needs to be told? 

"During this period of utter grief and despair because of the global war mechanisms, we are all clinging desperately to our version of lives while experiencing heartbreak and devastation, questioning our audacity to go on when at the same time and space there are people who are not being allowed to live."

"The dispute of belonging, of heritage, of land and its resources are the fuel of this violent mechanism, and at the baseline of it, is the dispute over one's own body and who has the right to claim it. In Zêzere, each character explores this question from their internal world, from the historical point of view of nations and their colonies and also fundamentally, in family. Who has the right to claim you? This is our way of recognizing our responsibility to agitate, to teach and to extend care to each

Can you share a bit about your directors vision or how you envision the look and feel of your future film?

"Zêzere is Poignant, Intimate, Playful and Melancholic."

"Dark shadow ambience into daylight highlighting among other things, the infinite color variations on nature. The camera, a poetic interpretation susceptible to the characters desires, fears, and contradictions—illuminating, among other things, the complexities of the portrait of a man now gone. I also love the subtle details: the movement of lips holding back a tear, a leaf falling; ants crawling over an empty bottle of chocolate milk; light beckoning in the water, a bird skiting above a flowing river."

"To understand the different identities that Beatriz holds within her, we will create an aural landscape that will envelop us in the two worlds: rural Kenya and central Portugal. To journey with her through nostalgic memories and future longings we will pay attention to the rare, earthy, and lusty sounds; finding the soul of each region and weaving it together with the narration and parts of her conversations. All of this combined with Beatriz’s gentle breaths, her mother’s sobs, Lourenço’s hyperventilation— an additional cue of the sneer of nature that will always go on regardless of our individual states."

You are currently working on an active crowdfunding campaign to help finance your movie: where can people check it out? 

"Crowdfunding enables us to build our audience and grow the support of those who also share the belief that we need more stories about characters in the fringes of mainstream narratives. Independent cinema only exists with a committed audience. You know that it takes more than a good script to get a film made, and in order to support our cast, crew, and larger production needs, we are calling to you, our community of filmmakers, film lovers, and any one who connects with the thesis of this film to help make it financially viable. The funds we raise through this campaign will be what will make this film possible. Watch our pitch video:"

"If you can monetarily support it, kindly contribute through our Zêzere Seed & Spark page. Every dollar counts and we have wonderful incentives to share with you because we are very grateful for the generosity being extended. If you can’t support us monetarily, you can create an account on Seed & Spark and follow our campaign. This is also a sure way of supporting us too. Also, please share this with friends and family. My favorite Swahili proverb at the moment is Kidogo kidogo hujaza kibaba. (Little by little we fill the basket!)"

When are you expecting to shoot this project?

"With a successful campaign, pre-production will start in mid april with principal photography being completed by the first week of September. Our Incredible team is set and ready. Our locations are locked. Now we need the monetary and in-kind support that will allow us to meet the needs of filming in Central Portugal and Kenya, giving production value to this truly
meaningful project. You can check out the full breakdown of our budget and timeline on our campaign page."

"Zêzere is very important to me and it has been wonderful to see how meaningful it has become to others who have interacted with it thus far, hence we will make it regardless. If we do not meet the campaign goal, we will take time to restructure how we will finance the film. It is important for us to be able to cater for Zêzere's needs such as paying our cast and crew fair wages."

Do you have any other projects you are currently working on or planning to work on after that one is completed?

"After Zêzere , I will continue developing my feature film project, The Water Calls To You, that is set in Kenya. It won the Nairobi Writers Prize 2022 and was selected for the Durban FilmMart 2022."

"As a filmmaker I would like to open an arts residency, offering systematically disenfranchised people an opportunity to tell their stories and refine their craft."

Want to help Patricia make Zézêre?

Donate via Seed and Spark!